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Kline lone vote against water project contigency
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Councilman Mike Kline found himself on the short end of a 4-1 vote last week to add $25,000 to a $215,535 public works project already in progress to improve the water system.

Prior to the March 12 council vote, Kline queried city staff on the request to enlarge an existing 10 percent contingency fund. Only $1,500 of the original $21,553 contingency fund remained because of unanticipated extra work discovered in the field.

Mayor Chris Vierra, Vice Mayor Ken Lane and Councilmen Eric Ingwerson and Bret Durossette supported the increase in the contingency to 21.6 percent, bringing the project budget to $262,088. The city budget allowed $450,000 for the project.

City Engineer Toby Wells said he had a hunch that the contract should have been approved with a 20 percent contingency.

Public works projects are routinely approved with a contingency to cover the expense of unknown factors that are typically encountered when the work commences.

"When you're digging in the unknown there are some things you can expect to come up," said Wells. "That's the whole reason for a contingency - so you don't have to stop the work and come back and ask for more money. The contingency allows minor changes ... as you're going along you don't have the ability to stop. It's very inefficient to not have a contingency ... the contractor delay claims cost you far more than the ability to be flexible."

The contract in question involves the installation of a 10-inch water main on Herndon Road between Grandview and Country Ford Trucks. The work also includes abandoning old four-inch water mains that are deteriorating in various alleys and cutting off and capping 1-inch water lines which serve homes in multiple neighborhoods. Through attrition, some homes have been slowly connected to a newer water service line installed at the front of lots on: Forest Lane, Beachwood Drive, Caswell Avenue, Herndon Road, Grandview Avenue, Belmont Avenue, Central Avenue, Tamarack Avenue, Spruce Avenue, Hemlock Avenue, Larch Avenue, Collins Road and a small commercial area on the north side of Whitmore Avenue west of Mitchell Road.

Engineering project manager Len Guillette said the city installed the newer water lines in the streets years ago hoping that residents - especially in the infrastructure deficient areas of Don Pedro and Collins - would pay to hook up 1-inch service lines to the front line.

"Some who connected didn't tell the city and didn't abandon (the old connection)," said Guillette.

When the contractor dug up alley connections, it was discovered that 123 caps were needed at $750 per job, not just the 88 originally estimated.

"A lot more were discovered than originally believed," explained Guillette.

Without council approval, the project would been without monetary wiggle room to do any additional unforeseen work.

Guillette added that no additional contingency could have resulted in "not doing something," or possibly shortening the 10-inch line designed to close another loop in the water system. Closing loops in the system, he said, allows for improved water flow "so wells don't have to work so hard."

Wells said the approval of more contingency money does not necessary mean it will be spent.